Jurassic World brings the franchise roaring back to life
Review by Daniel Rester
After what seems like 65 million years of waiting, audiences are now given a new sequel to Steven Spielberg’s thrilling masterwork Jurassic Park (1993). The picture, called Jurassic World and directed by Colin Trevorrow, more or less ignores some of the happenings of the second and third films and instead calls back to the original.
Trevorrow’s film – which he co-wrote with Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Derek Connolly – takes place 22 years after the events of the first Park and is set on the original island, Isla Nublar. Since John Hammond’s passing, the island is now owned by billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), who has somehow managed to actually open a dinosaur theme park similar to what Hammond had originally envisioned. How Masrani was able to do this despite the dangerous and death-filled incidents of the previous films is never explained in the screenplay, but I guess we’re just supposed to go with it. That little error is just one of the screenplay’s many flaws and/or oversights. More on that later.
Jurassic World is helped run by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), a business-minded woman with a stern look and high heels that are apparently magical because she can outrun big dinosaurs in them. Anyways, Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) are visiting her on the island just as she and Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong, the only returning cast member from the original) are finishing up making a genetically modified hybrid called the Indominus Rex. Bad idea.
Also on the island is Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), an ex-Navy man who now trains Velociraptors with his helper Barry (Omar Sy). InGen operator and military expert Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) has plans in mind for the raptors, though Owen understands the dangers of the animals but also has bonds with some of them. Soon Owen, Claire, and others are trying to survive against the Indominus Rex after it escapes, and I’ll stop right there so as not to spoil anything.
World is a highly entertaining popcorn thriller and probably the best of the Park sequels, though I thought the underrated second film was excellent as well. Either way, World is definitely a step up from the disappointing Jurassic Park III (2001), with Trevorrow and his team reigniting the franchise. Does it come close to the greatness of the original film? Hell no. But what even can do that?
What World first does right is take the awe-then-danger approach the original entry used instead of the go-to-obvious-danger method the two previous films had. Trevorrow sets up the environment and main story without rushing, perhaps even doing it too slowly. The audience is treated to the magnificence of the dinosaurs and distracting company-sponsored buildings (Samsung, Verizon, etc.) before the running and screaming kicks in. We also get a mess of subplots involving divorce, military strategy, and other generic factors.
Despite the plot throwing in too many characters and unnecessary elements (and increasingly ridiculous moments towards the third act), Trevorrow still handles everything skillfully enough so that it doesn’t fall apart. To the script’s credit, too, some of the story elements work perfectly and the dialogue flows well for the most part; only a few of the lines are just too cheesy to handle. The writers were also smart enough to throw in some cool Easter eggs for fans to spot.
The presentation definitely trumps the writing here though. Trevorrow injects the action scenes with plenty of excitement, fear, and wonder, sometimes all at once. He is aided by a talented technical team who make the dinosaurs as awesome as ever. The raptors are admittedly a bit too CGI-heavy at times, but both the practical effects and visual effects are aces for the most part. The Indominus Rex is especially neat to look at, though nothing beats a certain two-legged roaring dinosaur that pops up at some point in the film.
John Williams wasn’t able to return to score World, but Michael Giacchino does a perfect job of stepping in. The music used provides a terrific balance of epic booming and sentimental lightness, helping the film have that Spielberg-like quality at times.
The cast does fine enough in front of the cameras. Pratt proves once again that he holds a leading man charm and prowess, while Howard is able to break Claire out of just being a caricature; these two and the spectacular action are the glue that holds the film together. Everyone else is serviceable but not many of them have much to do or shine, with D’Onofrio’s talents especially wasted in a part where he has a comes-and-goes Southern accent. Khan does get a few good moments in as the eccentric billionaire Masrani, though, and Jake Johnson is hilarious in a small part as a tech operator.
World has quite a few flaws, mostly with its subplots and supporting characters. But in my eyes, fun defeats flaws for the most part. And World is simply a lot of fun and has a lot that works quite well. The set pieces are vibrant and plenty, and Trevorrow and his team have a fine touch on handling the camerawork and editing so that there is visual clarity among all of the onscreen chaos. Such movie magic brought out the kid in me for two hours, and that’s never something to complain about.
My Grade: B+ (on an F to A+ scale).
Viewing Recommendation: Skip It, Wait for Cable, Wait for Blu-ray Rental or VOD, See It at Matinee Price, Worth Full-Price Theater Ticket
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril).
Runtime: 2 hours and 4 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: June 12th, 2015.